With 34,000 troops expected to return to the U.S. by 2014, manufacturers across the nation are ramping up efforts to give back to the veteran community -- by helping them ease back into civilian jobs.
Many veterans find that they fall into a skills disconnect when searching for employment. A large number simply do not know how to translate or optimize their military skills for their new workforce careers. And manufacturers facing a lack of qualified talent -- with 84 percent reporting that a skills deficiency is having a serious effect on their ability to maintain operations -- are helping to bridge the divide by streamlining hiring efforts for men and women leaving military service.
In recent years, unemployment rates for veterans have declined, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics
. Policy makers, businesses, and advocates for veterans, including actor Gary Sinise, who is a supporter of the Get Skills to Work
(GSTW) coalition, are dedicated to closing the skills gap in manufacturing at an even faster pace.
"I first got involved with GSTW last year," Sinise wrote in a recent op-ed
in the Chicago Sun Times. "The program builds on the mission of the Gary Sinise Foundation, to serve the nation by honoring our defenders, veterans, first responders, their families and those in need...Veterans represent a huge opportunity for the U.S. economy, and the GSTW program aims to help create new futures for those who worked to make ours better."
The editorial followed the announcement that Illinois is becoming the first state to partner with GSTW, which was founded a year ago. The GSTW's mission is to help veterans translate military skills for advanced manufacturing careers. The coalition, founded by GE, Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Alcoa and The Manufacturing Institute, helped train and mentor nearly 30,000 veterans in its inaugural year.
Regional Efforts to Connect Veterans to Jobs
In the Northwest, the Center for Advanced Manufacturing Puget Sound (CAMPS) in Kent, Wash., a not-for-profit organization representing small and mid-sized manufacturers, has launched a three-day workshop that has already helped 140 transitioning vets find jobs.
"We've developed skills translation models; we've taken 135 military occupations across the five branches, and we've crossed them over to show how they relate to manufacturing jobs," Tom McLaughlin, CAMPS director, told the Pudget Sound Business Journal
Part of CAMPS' ongoing effort is its Training to Placement to Advancement (TPA) which connects unemployed and underemployed workers, immigrant populations, and military veterans with the manufacturing industry.
In the Southeast, Broward College in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., plans to train veterans through Operation Retool
, part of the school's Advanced Manufacturing program. Designed to retrain and "retool" veterans for the workforce, Operations Retool is set to launch in January. It is financed through the Florida TRADE grant, which was awarded to 12 colleges to invest in training programs that prepare students for manufacturing careers.
"Through the Operation Retool program and the Florida TRADE grant, Broward College can offer manufacturing training to veterans, allowing them to refresh their skills, gain industry knowledge and receive job placement assistance in the high-demand manufacturing and engineering technology profession, and do so in an accelerated timeframe," said Dr. E.M. Henn, interim dean of BAS programs, said on the Broward College website.
Do you have a veteran effort that you'd like to share? Send your stories to the writer on Twitter @BethG_TN